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The History Channel: Lost Worlds

Kevin Garcia

It’s the dream of any history student to see the glories of past civilizations come alive again, that’s why it was only fitting that the History Channel is the place this dream can become reality.

The History Channel

Distributor: A&E
Network: History Channel
First date: 2006
US Release Date: 2007-02-27

Lost Worlds takes a rather obvious concept – talking about historic locations in a documentary series – and tries to add a new spin by focusing on computer technology to recreate the look of cities of yore and give viewers a three-dimensional view of the mazes and complexes that made these sites so amazing.

That said, there is a distinct lack of “lost worlds” in a series called "Lost Worlds".

Several episodes focus on early Christian events, a topic that has glutted history-based programming with the popular controversies of The Passion of the Christ and The Da Vinci Code. Of course, it is nice to see the world the apostle Paul lived in with more detail than is usually given, but the factual integrity of some activities attributed to the saint in the program has been questioned by other sources.

Naturally, Atlantis is covered. You can’t have a show about the mysteries of history without covering Atlantis. It’s a rule or something. Unlike other programs, Lost Worlds treats the topic as a serious subject, focusing on actual civilizations that might be, or at least be similar to, the legend of Atlantis. By focusing on the achievements of the Minoan civilization, the episode does more for the myth than any footage of the Bimini Road that other shows might dwell on.

On the other hand, the episode gives only a passing mention to what might be a smoking gun in the Atlantis story: Plato said his version of the tale came from Solon, who saw it written in Egyptian. Here, the filmmakers mention a wall in Egypt, describe the destruction of Crete (called Keftiu), then quickly move on. This key piece of information may add a lot to the understanding of the myth and how closely it might connect with reality, but that task has been left for other documentarians.

Another episode focuses on what are somewhat misleadingly called the pagans. Of course, the pre-Christian peoples of Britain were pagans, but so are any other pre-Christian people, that’s the definition of the word. As nice as it is to look at this little known and only partially understood aspect of European history, it might have been nice to call the episode “pagans of Britain”, to leave the door open for other cultures.

Also included as lost worlds, aside from obvious entries like Atlantis, are places created and lost in the 20th Century in the more secretive chapters of World War II. It's very interesting to see the underground bunkers of Nazi Germany, the US Manhattan Project sites, and the places beneath Churchill’s London. Personally, I don’t consider these locations “lost worlds” so much as “places of recent history”, but c’est la vie. It’s still fun to get new insight on key non-battlefield sites of World War II.

For the "Manhattan Project" story, the crew does more than just recreate top secret facilities. They add extra science by showing how the atomic bombs were created and the emotional impact the project had on civilian workers kept in the dark and on an unsuspecting nation, contributing power, silver -- teenage girls -- to the most important experimental program of the war. These are critical details not often touched upon in history lessons. If nothing else, it’s fun to see historians treat the remains of a 60-year-old trailer park with the same reverence others would of a Roman village.

As for a world that really is “lost,” the series was advertised with images of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. This is included as the “bonus” feature; a pilot episode covering the ancient Maya. The episode sheds little light on the Mayan world that hasn’t already been shown in other similar series, but it does present a novice-friendly version of history, setting the pace for the simplified look at major historic locations with an eye for minor, often inconsequential, details.

Other special features are noticeably lacking. Even though a behind the scenes short produced by the History Channel is available on YouTube, it was left off the DVD collection. The set doesn’t even include subtitles or language selections.

On the plus side, each episode is broken into reasonable chapters. This is important because a lot of DVD collections without all of the bells and whistles neglect this important step.

Overall the series is a valiant, if uninspired effort, that provides new depth to hidden and underground cities (no pun intended). The DVD collection leaves something to be desired, but it could serve well to supplement a history 101 class.


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